IF THE POSTSEASON STARTED TODAY ...
Wild Card: Mariners at A's
Division Series: Wild Card at Angels | Royals at Orioles
Wild Card: Pirates at Giants
Division Series: Wild Card at Nationals | Cardinals at Dodgers
• Postseason picture
How about those Pirates? A recent hot stretch coupled with Milwaukee's recent struggles, and look at them now. They're conjuring thoughts of 2013 by pulling into Wild Card contention, knocking the Brewers out of a mathematical playoff spot for the first time since Milwaukee was 2-2 on April 4.
They're also getting the magic back, which was shown Sunday with the first career home run off the bat of starter Gerrit Cole.
Things weren't nearly as rosy for the Brewers, who need to figure out how to turn this thing around in a hurry. After losing to St. Louis by a 9-1 score on Sunday, the Milwaukee veterans held a players-only meeting and addressed the team's recent slump.
"Something like that kind of wakes you up," Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "We got punched in the mouth today. It's about time we woke up from the little trance we've been in and move forward here."
Meanwhile, the Royals look to be moving forward to a place they haven't occupied since 1985: postseason baseball. And on Sunday, they managed to keep their hold on the AL Central with a 2-0 victory over the Yankees before a sold-out crowd in the Bronx celebrating Derek Jeter Day.
Kansas City's series against Detroit figures to be the most dramatic of the early week, but there are other good games on tap for Monday as the Pulse of the Postseason quickens with each day.
The Indians will try to stay in the Wild Card picture, but it won't be easy with the team with the best record in baseball (the 87-55 Angels) coming to Progressive Field. The Braves will find themselves in a similar situation against Washington, but they'll have to get it done on the road at Nationals Park.
TODAY'S KEY GAMES TO WATCH (all times ET)
Angels (Weaver, 15-8) at Indians (Salazar, 6-6), 1:05 p.m. Preview
The Tribe loves Danny Salazar's arm and potential, and it would love to see him reach it in this game against the team with the best record in the game.
Royals (Guthrie, 10-10) at Tigers (Verlander, 12-12), 4:08 p.m. Preview
Justin Verlander has always been at his best at this time of year, but his recent inconsistency has the Tigers puzzled. He can go a long way in regaining confidence by dealing in this pivotal matchup.
Braves (Minor, 6-9) at Nationals (Fister, 12-6), 7:05 p.m. Preview
Mike Minor has improved over the second half of the season, and the Braves will need his best effort to take care of a tough Nationals team, which has enjoyed stellar work from Doug Fister of late.
Marlins (Penny, 1-1) at Brewers (Gallardo, 8-8), 8:10 p.m. Preview
The Brewers are reeling, but they've got to have confidence in their ace, Yovani Gallardo, who gets the ball in a key home-series opener.
A's (Gray, 13-8) at White Sox (Noesi, 8-9), 8:10 p.m. Preview
The A's will have to regain their good vibes on the road, but at least they have their de facto ace on the hill against Chicago in Sonny Gray.
Astros (Peacock, 4-8) at Mariners (Hernandez, 14-5), 10:10 p.m. Preview
Seattle returns from a successful road trip and puts the ball in the hand of Felix Hernandez, who's not only the staff ace but one of the front-runners for this year's AL Cy Young Award.
• Watch the races on MLB.TV
To calculate a team's magic number, take the number of games it has remaining and add one. Then subtract the difference in the number of losses between that team and its closest pursuer.
AL East: Orioles 12 over Yankees
AL Central: Royals 19 over Tigers
AL West: Angels 14 over A's
AL Wild Card 1: A's 19 over Mariners
AL Wild Card 2: Mariners 20 over Tigers
NL East: Nationals 14 over Braves
NL Central: Cardinals 16 over Pirates
NL West: Dodgers 17 over Giants
NL Wild Card 1: Giants 17 over Pirates
NL Wild Card 2: Pirates 20 over Braves and Brewers
A tiebreaker game will be played to determine a division winner, even if the tied clubs are assured of participating in the postseason. If a division championship tiebreaker is necessary, the head-to-head record between the clubs will determine home-field advantage. If the head-to-head record is tied, then division record will be the next tiebreaker.
If two clubs are tied for the two Wild Card berths, home-field advantage will be determined by the head-to-head record between the clubs. If the head-to-head record is tied, then division record will be the next tiebreaker.
• Tiebreaker rules